Looking in the mirror these days is not easy for most feminist women fifty years old or older who went through the second wave of the women's movement in the United States or Europe in the 1970s and 1980s. For years we have personally and politically critiqued the obsession with beauty and impossible body ideals that the media and advertisements lay on women. Many of us gave up various sorts of makeup and refused to shave our legs and underarms, and many stopped wearing high heels and short, tight skirts. However, now that we see our faces slowly assuming the visage of the older woman, our feminist rejection of beauty standards is put to its most exacting test. Can we resist being undermined by the lack of self-worth we feel when arriving, finally, at the most stigmatized stage in a woman's life cycle: old age?
Part of the problem with aging from a feminist perspective is that as an issue it has been relatively neglected by contemporary feminism (is this denial, perhaps?). In any case, The Other Within Us redresses this omission by assembling essays that address the multifaceted collectivity of women and issues raised for them by the process of becoming old women.
This volume seeks to offer fresh paradigms to supplement, revise, and extend existing discourses -- edical, scientific, and social service oriented -- that may be designated as gerontological. Feminist theorists deploying such discourses wish to dismantle the structure of their masculinist bias. Women in later life have been massively and familiarly objectified in gerontological literature. They have been negatively stereotyped both in popular writings and in media images. The term "career path" has been used to indicate the disciplinary technology that keeps the woman elder "in her place." The chapters in this volume have been selected as situating, problematizing, and, above all, resisting that containment.
Women must undergo more than one process of becoming. According to Simone de Beauvoir's well-known dictum for the social construction of women as the second sex, "One is not born, but rather becomes a woman." 1 But as hard as it is to become a woman, it is even harder to become an old woman in patriarchal society. To undo the double process of objectification and self-objectifica